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What To See At The Women Of The World Festival

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Sister Sledge, who are appearing at this year's festival
The Women of the World Festival London is now in its fifth year. The brainchild of Southbank Centre Artistic Director, Jude Kelly CBE, and brought to fruition by her brilliant team, it’s a celebration of – and discussion around – all kinds of things that affect women, pinned on International Women's Day. This year's festival takes place over the course of this weekend, from the 11th to 14th of March.

WOW Fest is a really good place to find out about stuff. It introduced me to the poet Kate Tempest and writer Sabrina Mahfouz, who were on previous years’ programmes. Past panel discussions have spanned topics from male suicide to labiaplasty to ‘can porn ever be feminist’? Previous speakers include Malala Yousafzai, Julie Walters, Caitlin Moran, Vivienne Westwood and Grayson Perry.

The best thing about WOW is the diversity of the programming and the fact that it comprises a mixture of free and ticketed events – making it accessible to almost everyone. There’s too much good stuff on this year to list everything worth going to, but here’s a small breakdown of our best picks. And, for more info, check out the WOW website.

Hands on the Levers of Power
Friday 11 March 2016 9:30am – 11:00am

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of British civil liberties advocacy organisation Liberty, and all-round Goddess, opens WOW with a talk in the Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall. Arrive bright and early for this – it will get you in the mood for the rest of the weekend.

Bringing Your Whole Self To Work

Friday 11 March 2016 11:30am – 12:30pm

A more in-depth discussion of that question you ask yourself at work every Friday: should I let on that I'm hungover? Just kidding, this is a talk about being courageous, vulnerable and taking your mask off at work – a luxury not everyone is afforded.


Honour Crimes
Friday 11 March 2016 1:15pm – 2:15pm
An opportunity to learn some facts about ‘honour’-based abuse from survivors and activists, and about the work being done to prevent it. Chaired by activist Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, a survivor of 'honour'-based abuse and founder of charity Karma Nirvana.

Women Crossing Borders
Saturday 12 March 2016 11:15am – 12:15pm
With the ongoing migrant crisis making headlines daily, now seems like a ripe time to discuss what should be done. This panel discussion will feature the stories of women who have been made refugees and asylum seekers, shedding light on why women flee their home countries and make perilous journeys to unknown futures.


WOW Book Club: bell hooks, Ain't I A Woman: Black Women & Feminism
Saturday 12 March 2016 12:45pm – 1:45pm

Discussing bell hooks with strangers: the best way to spend a Saturday lunchtime like, ever.


Female Genital Mutilation (Talk)
Saturday 12 March 2016 3:45pm – 4:45pm

Sadly, the conversation around what we can do to most effectively prevent FGM doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Here, campaigner Nimco Ali discusses whether banning it does enough. If you're interested in the topic, check out our recent feature on FGM, including an interview with Ali here.


An Evening of Conversation with Annie Lennox
Saturday 12 March 2016 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Annie Lennox is a regular fixture at WOW Fest, discussing all manner of feminisms. If you've forgotten why she's great, watch this video:

Trans Identities
Sunday 13 March 2016 11:30am – 12:30pm

Asking 'how does trans activism interact with the battle for gender equality?' are trans Londoners and excellent public speakers Rebecca Root and Munroe Bergdorf, among others.


Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Baby Loss
Sunday 13 March 2016 11:30am – 12:30pm

A little-talked about topic, tackled head on, on a Sunday morning – a rare thing. Ruth Bender Atik, National Director of the Miscarriage Association heads up the discussion and sharing session for everyone affected by the loss of a baby.


We Need To Talk About Alcohol
Sunday 13 March 2016 1:15pm – 2:15pm

Over 50% of women in the UK drink too much, according to the World Health Organisation. Probably time for a conversation about why this is happening. Avoid if hungover.

Yarl's Wood, Women & Detention
Sunday 13 March 2016 1:15pm – 2:15pm
Join Natasha Walter – author of Living Dolls and director of Women for Refugee Women – and two women who have been detained in the UK to hear about life inside Yarl's Wood detention centre, and to learn about why people are calling to end the detention of asylum seekers. You can read our article on the same topic here.


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